Venice is regarded by many as one of the most enchanting cities of the world. For much of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance Period, it was also the wealthiest in Europe, when it was a major maritime power, banking on its strategic location as the gateway for commerce between Asia and Europe.
Venice comprises 118 small islands in the marshy Venetian Lagoon on the northeast coast of Italy. Venice has a population of 270,000, but is often overcrowded, as the number of tourists in Venice outnumber its residents. Together with the city of Padua, it is part of the Padua-Venice Metropolitan Area, with a population of over 1.6 million.
Venice and its lagoon were inscribed as a World Heritage Site during the 11th session of the World Heritage Committee at Headquarters in Paris, France, on 7-11 December, 1987.
World Heritage Site Inscription Details
Location: N 45 26 03.5 E 12 20 20.2 in the Province of Venezia, Veneto Region, Italy
Inscription Year: 1987
Type of Site: Cultural
Inscription Criteria: I, II, III, IV, V, VI
How Venice got its name
The name Venice is believed to come from an ancient tribe known as Veneti, which was mentioned by Homer as the Eneti.
Brief History of Venice
There is no record of when Venice was founded. Historians believed that the people of neighboring cities including Padua, Aquilera, Altino and Concordia (in modern-day Portogruaro) came to settle in the marshland that is now Venice when they fled Germanic invasions and Huns. According to accounts from the Late Roman period, the marshlands were inhabited by fishermen. The Venice area was invaded by the Quadi and Marcomanni (both Germanic tribes) in 166-168, by the Visigoths (East Germanic tribe) in the 5th century, and 50 years later, by Attila the Hun (leader of a Central Asian nomadic tribe). The Lombards, another Germanic tribe, invaded it in 568.
For much of the Middle Ages, the governor of Venice held the title of duke, or Doge. During the reign of Duke Agnello Particiaco (811-827), the ducal seat was moved to the island of Rialto, which is the focal point of present-day Venice. From the 9th to the 12th century, Venice developed into a city state similar to Genoa, Pisa and Amalfi. Due to its position at the head of the Adriatic Sea, Venice became a major naval and trade center.
The glory days of medieval Venice came to an end in the 15th century, when it unsuccessfully tried to keep Thessalonica from the Ottomans. The result was, when Thessalonica fell to Sultan Mehmet II, he sent troops to attack Venice. The war lasted thirty years and cost Venice much of its territories in the eastern Mediterranean. The discovery of the New World by Spain and the establishment of a new sea route to India by Portugal further damaged Venice's trade monopoly.
Venice was plagued by the Black Death in 1348 and again between 1575 and 1577, when 50,000 of its population was wiped out. In 1630, another plague killed a third of Venice's then 150,000 inhabitants. As Portugal rose to become Europe's main trading country with the East, Venice began to lose its position as an international trading port.
In 1797, Venice lost its independence when Napoleon Bonaparte conquered it. It became part of Austrian territory when Napoleon signed the Treaty of Campo Formio. In 1805, it became part of Napoleon's Kingdom of Italy, but was returned to Austria in 1814, when it became part of the Austrian-controlled Kingdom of Lombardy-Venetia. A revolt in 1848-1849 established the Venetian Republic, but in 1866, it became part of Italy following the Seven Weeks War.
Modern Venice is a major tourist destination. It is famous for its canals and waterways. There are all together about 150 canals and 400 bridges in Venice. In the 19th century, a causeway was built so that railway line can be extended to Venice. Parking lots and road was also added to the causeway in the 20th century. Nonetheless much of the city is only accessible on foot or by boats. Venice is Europe's largest car-free urban area.
The Gondolas of Venice
The classic form of transportation in Venice is the gondola. Today it is mostly used by tourists as well as for weddings, funerals and other ceremonies. The main form of transportation is not by gondola, but by vaporetti, or ferryboats.
Venice Tourist Tips
Getting to Venice
Venice is served by the Marco Polo Airport (VCE) in Mestre, on the mainland coast of Italy, within sight of Venice. Treviso Airport is a smaller airport of budget airlines such as Ryanair, SkyEurope and Transavia.
From the airport, you can catch the bus to Venice. The shuttle bus between Marco Polo Airport and Venice costs €3.00. Alternatively, you can take a boat at the Alilaguna Waterbus Jetty, which is just 10 minutes walking distance from the airport terminal. The fare of €12 gives you a leisurely 80-minute ride to Piazza San Marco via Murano, Lido and Arsenale. To arrive faster in Venice, you can also opt for a water taxi, which costs €100 for a ride to Piazza San Marco in 30 minutes. The cheaper €6.00 boat goes to Fondamente Nuove, a journey of 30 minutes.
The best way to see Venice is on foot. Get out your walking shoes as they will be in good use.
It is very easy to get lost in Venice, due to the many alleyways and canals which, after a while, tend to look the same. Even maps provided by hotels may be inaccurate or not sufficiently detail. Being on a cluster of islands, you won't wander off it, but you'd certainly lose precious time trying to retrace your steps. One tip is, each time you cross a bridge (and there'll be plenty), to note the house numbers before and after. Another useful tip is to take digital photographs whenever you are at a crossroad, and use the shots to remind yourself the way back. It is recommended that you photograph the view behind you - for that's the direction you need to head on your return.
When looking at signs, locations and bridges are marked "Per" followed by the name of the sight. Hence "Per S Marco" points to St Mark's Square. All in all, the experience of Venice comes from exploring its kaleidoscopic sights, even getting lost on occasion.
Telephone in Venice
The area code for Venice is 041. You need to dial this number, even when you're calling from Venice itself. If someone needs to dial your hotel in Venice, he should dial +39 041. If you are dialling home from Venice, the access code is 00.
Internet cafes are expensive - even more than elsewhere in Europe. Expect the use of the terminal at an Internet Cafe in Venice to cost you €6.00 per hour.
Climate in Venice
Highest average temperature is in July and August (22°C) while lowest is in January (2°C). Rainfall is evenly spread out through the year averaging between 6-8 cm per month.
Book Hotel Rooms in Italy and Worldwide
Most of the hotels in Venice are expensive, if not very expensive! We provide here a list of hotels in Venice which you can book rooms online, bypassing the need to use a travel agent. If you wish to look for cheaper hotels, find the ones in Lido, which is 15-20 minutes away by Vaporetto.
If the prices of hotel rooms in Venice seems out of reach to you, an alternative is to stay in Padua, the main city from Venice, and visit it from there.
Photos of Venice and its Lagoon
Basilica San Marco, Venice
Author: Casey Muller
Piazza San Marco, Venice
author: Paolo da Reggio
Dorge's Palace, Venice
author: Paolo da Reggio